As the American Medical Association is holding its annual meeting in Chicago this week, the AMA has disclosed that it lost 12,000 members last year, reportedly due, in large part, to opposition by their members to the new healthcare law.
The main focus of debate at the annual meeting is whether the AMA will withdraw its support for the individual mandate, a key component of the law. This debate on the individual mandate highlights how misguided and irrelevant the AMA has become.
The AMA was used by the Obama administration to garner public support for the law. The public’s perception is that all doctors belong to the AMA, and thereby, that the AMA speaks for all doctors.
Thus, if the AMA supports ObamaCare, it must be good. In fact, at the time of passage of ObamaCare, only 17% of physicians in the United States belonged to the AMA. That percentage is dropping as members leave. Further, one third of its members are in training (eg residents and students), and a substantial portion of the remainder are either retired or in academic medicine.
Truth be told, the AMA is hardly representative of practicing physicians.
Why then did the AMA support ObamaCare? The answer is that the federal government created a monopoly for the AMA, giving it exclusive rights to publish medical billing codes.
Every physician and hospital in the country must use these billing codes. This monopoly accounts for an annual income for the AMA of between 70 and 100 million dollars. That exceeds the income from membership fees.
To whom is the AMA’s allegiance -- practicing physicians or Washington politicians?
Now, after the AMA has been used by the White House for the passage of ObamaCare, its delegates are debating withdrawing support for the individual mandate. Members supporting the individual mandate sight the importance of everyone having health insurance.
No one disputes the desirability of everyone having health insurance. The question is, how do we get there?
Should bureaucrats in Washington mandate that we have health insurance, and dictate what the terms should be? Or should we pursue policies that will make health insurance more affordable, and then hold individuals responsible?
The question regarding the individual mandate is a matter of Constitutional law. The opinions of the AMA in that regard are not germane.
And what will happen if the individual mandate falls? We are still left with a monstrosity of a law. This law is so recognizably bad that 1,400 waivers have been granted, many to the unions that supported the law, as well as to several states.
A recent survey of employers by the McKinsey company finds that as many as 100 million Americans will lose their employer-based health insurance and be dumped into health insurance exchanges when the law is fully in effect.
Was it not President Obama who declared that “If you like your health insurance, you can keep it.” Really? As a result of subsidies for the exchanges, costs for ObamaCare continue to skyrocket. And cost control will ultimately be the responsibility of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel of 15 non-elected bureaucrats.
The IPAB will ultimately decide what healthcare you receive.
The individual mandate is unconstitutional.
But while the AMA delegates continue to debate contentiously over the individual mandate, they fail to recognize the threat that ObamaCare poses to the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship, to the quality of healthcare, and to the financial solvency of our country.
The individual mandate is not the issue.
It is ObamaCare itself.
Until the leadership of the AMA recognizes this, membership will continue to hemorrhage.
Dr. Mark G. Neerhof is an executive board member of Docs4PatientCare. Please visit http://www.docs4patientcare.org
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